Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Beaches.

Beaches (Garry Marshall, 1988)

Category: Tearjerker. Beaches is a prime example of the tearjerker genre. These are films that are apparently designed to literally jerk tears from your lachrymal glands, a process which sounds both gross and unnecessary. I prefer not to use the equally popular term “chick flick” for this kind of movie, because it is sexist. (Also, it would no doubt cause an increase in humiliating comments about how I am essentially a woman. To wit: I mentioned that I was watching this movie to the husband of the boss of a friend of the blog, and he replied, and I quote, “Don’t watch that! You’ll get a yeast infection.”)

We’ve talked at length on the blog about movies that are sad for the sake of being sad, and how I think that those movies are generally “lame,” or “manipulative,” or in the case of The Lovely Bones, “so infuriating it made me want to punch Peter Jackson in his fat stupid face.” That said, the whole ethos of the tearjerker genre is not necessarily or intrinsically bad. People do really get sick and die. It happens a lot more than you’d think, actually. And the quotidian dramas that actual human beings go through when they’re in those situations are definitely worthy of being depicted in movies. If the characters in these movies are realistic and treated with empathy by the filmmakers, then we shouldn’t have a problem here. It’s when the characters are merely pawns in the filmmakers’ game of manipulation that I start getting mad.

More specifically, Beaches is also a sad movie about friendship, oddly enough. The actual act of being friends with someone, while it’s happening, is pretty sweet. (Here is a list of reasons why.) The sadness often comes in when you used to be friends with someone, but then end up losing touch with that person. This can happen for any number of reasons, some small and insignificant (she forgot my half-birthday, he chews too loudly), and some larger and more significant (she slept with my husband, he killed my cat). It’s kind of worth looking at these things on a case-by-case basis. You should always weigh the reason for losing touch with someone with the benefits that this friend has brought to your life. For example, if you have a friend whose father owns the Arizona iced tea company, and thus has an unlimited supply of 24-ounce Arizona iced tea cans in his (no doubt palatial) apartment, you should remain friends with this person for the rest of your life. Even if he kills your cat.

My familiarity with this issue: We used to go to Cape Cod every summer when I was a kid, and I loved the beach then. But now I kind of hate it. I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. And I’m afraid of the ocean, so no dice there either. I don’t really know how much of this movie has to do with actual beaches. If it’s about sitting with your mom under the umbrella with like three sweaters on while playing Uno, then I will totally be able to relate to it. Tearjerker-wise, we discussed my crying habits in the first post of the blog. (I put myself out there for you people, and you responded with massive ridicule. But I stand by it. Watch the end of You’ve Got Mail again and try not to cry, shopgirl. And THEN go and ridicule me for having a HEART.) It’s interesting that I’ve cried only once in the course of writing this blog. I intend to watch some future films while eating onions to see if I can accelerate this process.

As for the friends thing, a quick consultation of my Facebook page will prove that I have many. The blog has many friends as well, as you may have noticed. I asked some of them a question that is rather pertinent to this film: “did you ever know that you’re my hero?”
  • Ellen Barr: “sha up”
  • Jill Plevinsky: “are you crying yet?”
  • Micah Lubens: “well you are certainly not mine”
  • Melissa Passarelli: “you're everythingggg i wish i could bee. that was my favorite movie when I was a 5 year old girl. boom roasted.”
  • Joe Kirkwood: “i don’t understand the question”
It’s good to have friends.

(It’s also important to note that this is a Bette Midler film. She’s been one of my favorite actresses since I saw her in Rochelle Rochelle: The Musical.)

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “When the New York child performer CC Bloom and San Fransisco (sic) rich kid Hillary meet in a holiday resort in Atlantic City, it marks the start of a lifetime friendship between them. The two keep in touch through letters for a number of years until Hillary, now a successful lawyer moves to New York to stay with struggling singer CC. The movie shows the various stages of their friendship and their romances including their love for the same man.”

What I thought of the movie: You know what? Call me a woman or make yeast infection jokes all you want, world, but I liked this movie. I really did! It was nice. It’s about simple nice things, and it doesn’t really try to manipulate us too much. Maybe the ending does a little bit, when they’re sitting on the beach and “Wind Beneath My Wings” (which is really a great song but my Lord does it sound dated; man the 80s sucked) is playing, but whatever, by that point I was already sold. Yes, it’s got its share of clich├ęs and the dialogue is occasionally clunky, but those things weren’t too distracting.

I think what was most responsible for my enjoyment of the film was the performance of Bette Midler. She’s great! I can tell why so many ladies and gays love her. Srsly though, she’s funny and she sings well and her serious acting isn’t terrible either. It’s not much of a SPOILER to note that one of the two aforementioned friends gets real sick and dies at the end of the movie. That’s why it’s sad. And I feel like going into it, I had this notion that the film would mostly be about the sickness and the dying. But it’s really not. She gets sick with about a half hour left in the movie, they go to the beach, it’s nice, they come back, then she gets real sick, they go to the beach one last time, did you ever know that you’re my etc. End of film. It’s not that bad. The hour-and-a-half before that part is (obviously) the bulk of the movie, and that’s just a nice story about two very different people sharing a special bond and all that. Midler and Barbara Hershey made me believe the scenes when they were BFFs, as well as the ones when they fought openly in department stores. And that’s why it worked. Man, that Bette Midler. If I went to see a Broadway show that she was starring in, only to find that her role would be played by the understudy, I would be quite displeased.

How I, John Krizel, related to the movie: The movie is about two lifelong friends, one a brassy redheaded Jewess and one a privileged brunette Gentile. While from a demographic standpoint, I fall more into the latter category, I can definitely relate more to the former. (In fact, I’ve often been described as “brassy.”) There are a lot of fun scenes that take place in the theater world, a world with which I am reasonably familiar. These scenes were generally populated with fun recognizable stereotypes (the crazy Jewish stage mother, the old talent scout, the pretentious small-time avant-garde director, etc.), which was actually kind of awesome.

The conflicts that the two friends have throughout the film often have a hint of class warfare in them, as Barbara Hershey’s character fumfers through a bunch of #whitegirlproblems as poor hardscrabble Bette Midler quips caustically in the background. As a longtime class warrior, I could really get behind this. In fact, some of my best class warfare was conducted at the beach. Brother of the blog Tony Krizel and I worked for two summers in the snack bar of a beach club in Atlantic Beach, NY. The club was mainly populated by a bunch of rich spoiled wives (whose husbands were absent because they were in Manhattan causing the financial crisis) and their young children, all of whom seemed to be named Connor. If they made a sequel to this movie based on those summers (Beaches 2: Kosher Pizza), I would clearly be Bette Midler.

How I felt after the movie ended: I watched all but the last twenty minutes of Beaches in the same room as roommate of the blog Ted Lynch, and then retired to my room for the last twenty, stating, “I might cry and I don’t want you to see that.” (I'll leave to your imagination his response to that comment.) But I didn’t. It was sad, and I guess I almost cried. I think it was just that, overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. I was fully prepared to hate it and make fun of it incessantly on this blog, but right away I got the feeling that I would like it, and I did. I liked Beaches. I expect to see some really good insults in the comments section, people.

7 comments:

  1. If roommate of the blog responded with some remark questioning your manhood, then that'd be EXTREMELY hypocritical. I guess there's a good chance that happened.

    ReplyDelete
  2. If I was wearing a skirt to the beach, I'd hate it too.

    Did your OB/GYN recommend this movie?

    Perhaps you'd like the "Collected works of Bette Midler" for Christmas.

    Did Ted buy you some bon-bons to make you feel better? Maybe a foot massage?

    On a serious note, we had more in common with the kids named Connor than the line cooks who mocked us for not learning how to use a deep fryer in college. You've misrepresented that culture war.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Macaroni MidlerDecember 1, 2010 at 11:34 AM

    If I don't get a black-and-white cookie I'm not going to be very pleasant to be around.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I bet Ted would have been nice to you if he saw you cry.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your defensiveness in explaining how you liked this movie reminds me of how some people try to talk about a different 80s movie.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Can you start rating movies with a tissue count?

    For instance, when I saw "Beaches" it scored a 4 out 5 on the tissue count scale because I did everything but sob.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wind Beneath Your WingsDecember 2, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    @The Macaroni Midler

    Now that's impossible...

    ReplyDelete